GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – After rocketing into the lead with 28 pounds, 2 ounces on the first day of the Diet Mtn Dew Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville, Michael Iaconelli went back out during Friday’s second round with intentions of fishing the same way.
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(Photo: Steve Bowman BASS)
The remainder of the top five anglers on the leaderboard saw some drastic changes on a day that was delayed one hour by thunderstorms. David Walker (48-6) moved into second, followed by Carl Jocumsen (46-8), Byron Velvick (45-3) and Brent Ehrler (43-13). With the lake itself undergoing changes, even more shifting could happen atop the leaderboard Saturday.
“On Thursday, I thought I knew exactly what was happening,” Iaconelli said. “After today, I believe there’s a lot more fish moving up to spawn than I thought and a lot more fish coming out for the post-spawn than I thought. There are a lot of fish on the move.”
Iaconelli, who never said which lures he was using Thursday, said he switched to a crankbait when things got slow Friday. That’s when he caught two of his largest fish of the day.
“The first cast on a crankbait, I caught one that weighed almost 8 pounds,” Iaconelli said. “The next one on a crankbait was a 6-pounder. That was a key decision, because without those two fish, I probably would have only weighed in about 16 or 17 pounds.”
Several of Iaconelli’s fish had what he called “big quarter sores” on their gill plates. He believed those were identifying marks for bass that have entered the post-spawn phase.
Because Guntersville has such an immense bass population, Iaconelli believes the bass don’t stay on bed as long as they do in other venues. With so many fish in transition, he said things were tough Friday – and could get tougher.
“It looked a lot better for me today than it really was,” he said. “Yesterday, it was happening. I’d pull up to spot and just know I was going to catch them. I caught over 30 keepers. Today, I caught maybe nine keepers.
“I feel like I’m in the winning area, but it’s going to be really important to keep moving with the fish.”
Walker, who suffered through a dismal 107th-place finish in the Elite Series event last month on the Sabine River, came to Guntersville worried that another bad finish might jeopardize his chances of qualifying for the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic. But after landing 23-1 Friday and 25-5 Saturday, he easily made Saturday’s Top 53 cut and put himself within striking distance of his second Elite Series win.
“I started off with a 5-pounder on my first cast, and that’s the way to start the day,” Walker said. “After a while, I had that one good fish and just four others that would measure. But as the day went on, I’d catch another fish that was a big one and then another. My culls were going up really fast, because I started with such small ones.”
Walker, who divulged little about the technique he was using, said confidence played a major role in his Friday success.
“It was one of those days when I had the one thing you always want as a fisherman,” Walker said. “It’s not a secret spot or a secret lure. It was confidence in my choices. Almost every time I thought I needed to try something it would work. And if it didn’t work, I knew that it didn’t because when I got there it just didn’t feel right.”
The biggest catch of the day belonged to Jocumsen, who brought in 26-10 to vault into third with 46-8. The popular Australian pro, who is fishing his second Elite event, had 21 pounds around noon and actually upgraded his catch while scouting for Saturday.
Jocumsen said the weigh-in took place around 6 a.m. in Australia, and more than 20,000 people in his native country were likely watching live on Bassmaster.com. He said many had also likely been up most of the night following his progress on the web site through BASSTrakk.
“Because of BASSTrakk, they say no one’s sleeping because they’re refreshing it all through the middle of the night,” Jocumsen said, laughing. “My sponsors and my friends say they haven’t slept the last two nights.
“Everyone in Australia is so excited. It’s going to bring awareness to the sport and put bass fishing on the map a little bit in another country.”
The remaining 53 pros will launch from Guntersville City Harbor at 6:15 a.m. Saturday with the weigh-in scheduled back at the park at 3 p.m. Only the top 12 anglers after Saturday’s weigh-in will move on to Sunday’s championship round.
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